A faith of verbs, art, and the woodlands in the spring
Tunes for a Monday Morning

Rituals of beginning

The Bumblehill Studio

Here are wise words on "the creative habit" from the excellent book of that title by choreographer Twyla Tharp:

Igor Stravinsky ms"A lot of habitually creative people have preparation rituals linked to linked to the setting in which they choose to start their day. By putting themselves into that environment, they start their creative day.

"The composer Igor Stravinsky did the same thing every morning when he entered his studio to work: He sat at the piano and played a Bach fugue. Perhaps he needed the ritual to feel like a musician, or the playing somehow connected him to musical notes, his vocabulary. Perhaps he was honoring his hero, Bach, and seeking his blessing for the day. Perhaps it was nothing more than a simple method to get his fingers moving, his motor running, his mind thinking music. But repeating the routine each day in the studio induced some click that got him started."

My own morning ritual (as I've discussed here before) is to take a walk in the woods behind the studio with Tilly, and then to sit among the trees or on the hill with a thermos of coffee, a pen, and a journal for scribbling notes and sketches and early-morning ideas...or else, on those days when I need a lift, with a volume of good poetry instead, which never fails to kickstart my imagination and re-ignite my love of language. Tilly sits or prowls nearby until it's time to head back to the studio. I leave the green as reluctantly as she does, picking a posy of wildflowers along the way. Back at my desk, I usually start the work day by lighting a candle -- a ritual act of muse-summoning; an offering to the Ancestors (all those previous generations of mythic artists whose footsteps I humbly follow in); and a tangible signal that the workday has begun. 'Time to get down to it.

Ritual candle

"In the end," notes Tharp, "there is no ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn't scare you, doesn't shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it. To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that's habit-forming. All preferred working states, no matter how eccentric, have one thing in common: When you enter into them, they compel you to get started."


Scribbled sketch

And you...? What compels you to start?